Do Not Track is a browser feature that prompts a Web application or site to opt out of a user’s crawl.

What is tracking?

“Tracking refers to the way content providers, advertisers, and others learn about how you interact with sites. They can monitor the pages you visit, the links you click on, and the products you buy or evaluate. This helps these sites offer personalized content such as ads or recommendations, but it also means that their online activity is being collected and often shared with other companies.”

Do Not Track: does anti-tracing really work?

DNT was proposed in 2009 by researchers Christopher Soghoian, Sid Stamm and Dan Kaminsky. Workgroup efforts to standardize “Do not Track” by W3C have not exceeded the recommendation stage and ended because of insufficient deployment and support. Understand how it works, or should work.

History of Do Not Track (DNT)

It all began in 2007 when consumer groups in the United States asked the US Federal Trade Commission for a list of online advertising tracking. The proposal would require advertisers to submit their information to the FTC, which would list the domain names used by these companies with tracking cookies.

In 2009, when the project took shape, Stamm was a privacy engineer at Mozilla (Firefox developer), while Soghoian started working at the FTC. A year later, in 2010, the FTC issued a privacy report calling for a “Do Not Track” system that would allow people to prevent their activities from being monitored.

The Trick of Microsoft

A week later, Microsoft went ahead and announced that its browser would include support for Trace Protection Lists, which block the tracking of cookies using blacklists provided by third parties. In January 2011, Mozilla announced that Firefox would soon provide a “Do Not Track” solution via header, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera and Google Chrome added.

Microsoft has decided to enable Do Not Track by default in Internet Explorer 10. This is not allowed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main Web standardization organization. Do Not Track specifications are very clear when they say that the configuration should be disabled by default and must reflect the user’s choice, not an institution, vendor, or limitation imposed by the network.

Hence, a patch released by Apache co-founder Roy Fielding added a code that detected whether the user was browsing IE 10 and disabling the DNT header, allowing sites using the open source web server to continue collecting data. The inconvenience: Microsoft users could not trigger it.

By 2015, Microsoft decided that starting with Windows 10, it would meet the specification and no longer enable Do Not Track as part of the default settings, but would provide customers with information on how to enable the feature in browser settings.

With confusing history, there are those who believe that Microsoft only made the problem worse by enabling it by default in Internet Explorer 10, causing more sites to ignore it.

Well, we activated it.

How Do Not Track Works

When you browse the web on computers or smartphones, you can REQUEST that sites do not collect or track your browsing data. Keep that word well: request it. The option is disabled by default and you can enable it in the settings.

Activated, am I free? No, You are not.

What happens to your data depends on how a site responds to your REQUEST. Many sites will still collect and use your browsing data to improve security, generate reporting statistics, and deliver content, services, announcements, and recommendations. There are no legal or technological requirements for the use of DNT.

Sites and advertisers can honor or ignore your requests. Most Web sites and services, including Google’s and Microsoft’s own, do not change their behavior when they receive a “No Crawl” request from their visitors.

The vast majority of sites ignored the DNT. That never really changed. There was no penalty for ignoring the request and little reason to honor it. Nobody cares.

This is particularly funny because Microsoft itself has never obeyed the DNT, justifying that “as there is still no understanding how to interpret the DNT signal, its services do not currently respond to the DNT signals of the browsers.”

Work related to the DNT standard ended on January 17, 2019. With the default abandoned by the first browser (Safari), other manufacturers should follow.

This is bad? Don’t.

What will replace Do Not Track

The option acted as a placebo and deceived people. It is past time to get rid of it and take other measures. It is not expected, however, that there is a “common understanding” in the industry. Instead, the crawlers are proactively blocked.

The Safari, Apple, includes “Intelligent Tracking Protection”, which prevents the sites you visit not follow directly. The Firefox included a third-party cookie blocking feature that you can activate to block a tracking list of sites in accordance with his will, including shops, social networks, etc.

Browsers did not provide details on which sites comply with Do Not Track requests. But there are plugins, such as the Cookie Inspector that reveal, in a dedicated cookie tab on the developer tools which ones haunt you.


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